|Bobby Brown performing live at Casino Rama. (Courtesy Peter Turchet/Casino Rama)
RAMA, Ont. - It took a few songs but he finally made an appearance.
That would be Bobby “Bad Ass” Brown, as he called himself, who joined his New Edition bandmates about 15 minutes into their 30th anniversary tour stop at Casino Rama on Thursday night as they performed Hit Me Off.
The R&B vocal group, who formed in Boston the late ‘70s, was rounded out by Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe and Michael Bivins and Johnny Gill - the latter who joined in the mid-’80s to replace Brown who left to pursue a solo career before the group went on hiatus from 1990-1996.
On Thursday night, all six men were all decked out in the same matching silver blazers, black ties, vests and pants and performed smoothly choreographed dance moves.
But Brown, the ex-husband of Whitney Houston who died of an accidental drowning two and a half months ago, stood out for several reasons, not the least of which he was wearing the added accessory of a grey baseball hat with a large B on it, and his dance moves and appearance were less polished than the rest.
“I bet some of you thought Bobby Brown wasn’t going to show up huh?’” said Tresvant during the group members’ individual introductions that followed.
The day before Brown’s representatives had been in an L.A. court room avoiding jail time for the 43-year-old singer on DUI, suspended licence and talking on his cell phone charges stemming from a March pullover by police.
Instead, Brown was ordered to serve one day (which he already had following his arrest), placed on 36-months probation and ordered to complete a 90-day alcohol awareness course after pleading no contest.
He told the Casino Rama crowd he was “narcotics-free” although he still liked to drink.
“Canada!” said Brown addressing the crowd on their feet and crowded at the front of the stage.
“Listen, I came here tonight specifically to perform for all you pretty people. They really tried to hold me at the border. I had one word for them, it was ‘Toronto would not like that.’”
On a more serious note he added: “I want to thank you all for your prayers. Everything you feel, for not only my family, but the Houston family. We want to thank you for everything. (Whitney) was a beautiful woman and she’s going to be kindly remembered.”
Otherwise, the group took the crowd of 3,800 through some of their better known early hits like Candy Girl, Cool It Now and Mr. Telephone Man during the course of their hour-and-50-minute set.
And when Gill vocally tore it up during My My My, carrying a bouquet of roses to hand out to the females in the audience, a more dishevelled looking Brown, with his shirt untucked and later without his tie, performed Roni to huge cheers.
A similar sing-off occurred later when Gill left the stage to sing to the fans on the floor during his solo song, In The Mood, and Brown responded by kissing someone in the front row.
But it was Brown’s solo hit, My Perogative - as in “When I say Bobby, you say Brown!” - and the Bill Bev Devoe chart-topper, Poison, which got the biggest responses of the night.
“I’m just thankful to be out here, thankful to be alive right now,” said Brown earlier. “I do still drink sometimes. I can’t drink for 30 days but that’s cool, I’ll be alright.
“This is the best time I’ve ever spent with five men,” he joked.